BOSTON — Danvers head coach John Walsh knew it wasn’t a time to panic.
Even after Wareham scored the first 10 points of the second half and grabbed its first lead since the first bucket of the game, Walsh stood firm and let his players decide to figure it out for themselves.
Boy did they ever. Danvers went on a 24-4 run after losing the lead to hand the Vikings (24-1) their first loss of the season in the Div. 3 state semifinals in a 68-45 win, on Monday at the TD Garden.
“We only had three (timeouts) left,” said Walsh. “With five minutes left I was going to call the timeout, but we had used two earlier in the backcourt. I said screw it. If it becomes a nip-and-tuck game then we are going to need that other timeout.
“If they had scored one more hoop I would have called the timeout. We came down and hit a big shot, and then another shot.”
Stefan Montiero and Aaron Baptiste took dishes from Darien Fernandez and deposited them for 3-pointers to begin the 10-0 run, and Fernandez capped it off with a hoop for a 32-30 lead.
Nick McKenna finally got Danvers on the board in the half with a 3-pointer and then the points started to come in a flurry. Nick Bates hit back-to-back 3s to stretch the lead back to seven points. After Fernandez got to the dish again, the Falcons scored 15 of the next 17 points to take full command of the game.
“They went into a zone so the shooters on the team knew that we had to open it up from the outside and hit a couple of shots,” said Bates, who finished the game with 17 points. “That opened it up on the inside and that’s how we get back into games.”
McKenna scored four straight buckets in the run and finished with 12 points for the game, while George Merry led the team with 22 points.
Guarding Fernandez: It’s one thing when you see a talented point guard play and get used to his tendencies, but the Falcons only heard of the talents that Fernandez brings to the table.
The Falcons’ defenders had to just adjust to what they were seeing on the Garden floor instead of what game tapes or X’s and O’s could be drawn up in preparation leading up game time.
“He’s a great player,” said Bates. “We just had to go out there and do it on our own this time. The coaching staff usually has all the plays drawn up for us when we go against the teams from the NEC, but today we didn’t know much about (Wareham), so we kind of had to go out there and just learn it on the fly and play basketball.”
Fernandez finished with 19 points and nine rebounds, but the Falcons kept his assist numbers low (four) and forced the talented Vikings guard into committing turnovers.
“It’s tough. I like to go the lane and they were 6-8, 6-6, so I had to alter my shot more,” said Fernandez. “I was trying to drive and kick, but their guards did a good job of hitting the ball from behind. I had a lot of turnovers too.”
Strong Start, No Nerves: Nobody would begrudge either team for being nervous on probably one of the biggest stages in high school basketball, but the Falcons came out strong as if it was just another game.
As a team the Falcons shot 9-of-14 from the floor and built a 21-9 lead after one.
“I think it was more that we were just ready,” said Merry. “We were excited and ready to play. I think in warm-ups we were nervous because it was a huge gym and big atmosphere. … You are playing on the parquet and some of the greatest players in the game played on that floor. We thought we could do the same, got in the zone and did our thing.”